Jesse Jackson pleads for peaceful response; NAACP says 'justice failed Trayvon Martin'
MSNBC host Al Sharpton called the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict "an atrocity," echoing the opinions of many who said Saturday's verdict devalued the lives of young black men.
"This is an atrocity," Sharpton said. "This is probably one of the worst situations I have ever seen."
Sharpton went on to call the verdict a "a slap in the face to those that believe in justice in this country," and called it "a sad day in the country."
But even as Twitter erupted in disgust — #JusticeforTravon topped U.S. trending topics — leaders urged people to limit their responses to words and peaceful action to honor Trayvon Martin, the black teenager Zimmerman said he shot in self-defense.
NAACP leaders vowed to pursue civil rights charges against Zimmerman with the Department of Justice. "Today, justice failed Trayvon Martin and his family," said NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. "We call immediately for the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the civil rights violations committed against Trayvon Martin."
"Avoid violence, it will lead to more tragedies," the Rev. Jesse Jackson tweeted. "Find a way for self construction not deconstruction in this time of despair."
Jackson was among many African-American leaders who called for calm as the verdict neared. The case brought fears of another response like the Los Angeles riots, in which 53 people were killed after the acquittal of four police officers charged with battering motorrist Rodney King.
No recent case has done as much to raise the issue of racial profiling in the United States as the Zimmerman one has. Those who have weighed in include President Obama, who said in March 2012, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
"When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids," Obama said. "I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this. And that everybody pull together. … All of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves."
Watch the Sharpton video: